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Jeanne Sager | Democrat

THIS IS HOW Scott Haberli’s house looks like after contractor Ted Perzanowski and crew jacked it up 4 feet last month. The house sits a stone’s throw from the Delaware River on the Red Barn Campgrounds in Hankins.

Raise the House

By Jeanne Sager
HANKINS — June 8, 2007 — Imagine coming home to find your house 3 feet off the ground.
For Scott and Joann Haberli it was like lifting a weight off their shoulders.
“One night I came home from work, and it was 3 feet off the ground,” Scott recalled. “Next time I came home, it was 5 feet off the ground!”
He’s only exaggerating slightly.
In the end, Carpentry Plus owner Ted Perzanowski and his crew jacked the Haberli home about 4 feet off its original footings.
He plans to do something similar to at least two more homes along the Delaware River this summer.
After three record floods in Sullivan County over a three-year period, the Haberli home needed that pick-me-up.
Twice – in September 2005 and June 2006 – the river reached the 100-year flood plain, and water entered the Haberlis’ living space.
The first time it was just 4 or 5 inches. The second time it was 3 to 4 feet.
After the first flood, the Haberlis and their four children moved temporarily.
“Luckily, we own a campground,” Scott said with a laugh.
They spent four months in another home on the property while Perzanowski made repairs.
But when the Delaware washed back through last June, the couple called it quits.
They called Makovic Homes and asked Perzanowski to help put up their new home 200 yards away – on higher ground.
“We built that one higher than any other house on that side of town!” Scott noted.
Their old home sat vacant while they negotiated with the insurance company.
The Haberlis couldn’t see tearing it down.
Insurance would cover at least a portion of the repairs, but the company first called for the living quarters to be raised above the 100-year flood plain.
Haberli called Perzanowski.
“I said, ‘This is what the insurance company is willing to pay. Can you do this for this amount of money?’” he said.
Started as a chicken coop
Each job is different, Perzanowski said, and the costs vary immensely.
Complicating the Haberli job were the additions made to the original 1890s structure.
It started as a chicken coop, Scott said, and additions were made as recently as 1981 by the Haberli family.
They came to Sullivan County full time in 1980 when Scott’s parents John and Naomi left their life in New Jersey to buy Red Barn Campgrounds.
“We came up almost every weekend during the campground season anyway,” Scott recalled.
When the place went on the market, his parents jumped.
They kept their jobs in Jersey for a year, then retired to run the place.
Scott, the youngest of the Haberli boys, graduated from Delaware Valley Central School up the road.
Today he’s the principal at the Roscoe Central School.
Along with Joann, a librarian, he leased the campgrounds from his parents in 1989.
Three years later, the couple bought everything outright.
“Before all the floods came in, I’d never seen the river up at that level,” Scott said. “And this was 4 feet in the house.”
Also decimated last year was a house where Scott’s mother had lived on the property, where his nephew and his wife and two of her family members were living.
That house has been made loveable again, but without insurance to cover raising the structure, Haberli isn’t sure what to do.
So far he and Joann have decided to open the campgrounds back up with the lower 60 lots closed for good.
Instead they’ve bulldozed down to the river to provide access for the campers on the higher spots.
Perzanowski’s crew has been working to get the family’s original house so it too is loveable.
Creating a challenging specialty
Based in Hankins, Perzanowski was a general contractor up until six or seven years ago when he saw a need in the community for a more specialized focus.
These days he jacks up houses not only to bring them in compliance with the flood plain requirements but to get underneath to fix crumbling foundations or to set to rights old structures that have begun settling or tilting.
He looks at each job as a challenge, he said.
“I like taking on the jobs everyone else won’t do,” Perzanowski explained.
“If someone says it can’t be done, I jump right in,” he quipped.
He recently righted an old building that had sunk into the mud 24 inches on an angle.
At the Haberlis, he’s several weeks pushing the original structure and the additions up into the air 4 feet.
To comply with the insurance company’s demands, Perzanowski and his crew have filled in the basement and created space for the water to essentially flow through if it does get into the masonry.
They’ve moved the electrical box, furnace and hot water heater above ground.
An engineer came in to determine where the house had to go – an elevation certificate shows the benchmark heigh of the last flood.
The actual jacking up took a week, Perzanowski said.
“It was a lot of steel beams, a lot of manpower . . .” he noted.
“It was just an incredible process to see,” Scott said.
There’s still a deck to be built to provide access from the ground to the front door several feet above.
“The bottom of the front door is even with my forehead!” Scott explained.
According to Perzanowski, it’s almost like a new house on the old footprint.
“Before, it was in a hole, and you couldn’t see the river,” he explained. “Now it’s a different feel in the house – you can look right out on the river.”
One of the next jobs on his list will be even more dramatic – hoisting the house 8 feet to create a garage below.
“From the road or the river, it will look like a two-story house,” he explained.
A future in housejackings?
Perzanowski can see this becoming a trend along the river.
“You have to do it now for resale value,” he noted. “As soon as they hear “Water was 30 inches in my living room” it’s pretty much done!”
The Haberlis aren’t sure what they’ll do next.
The family is settled in their brand new home, but Scott says the old one still has its pull.
“My wife and I have been going back and forth,” he said. “We have emotional ties to that house.”
They’ve already sold one 3-acres section of the campground, he said, so selling the house isn’t out of the question.
But the house, the campground, they’re part of the Haberlis’ history.
“There’s customers there that have been there since I was camping there,” he said with a sigh.

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